Raj Khatri is a Digital Artist and Art Director at Marching Ants, Mumbai.
Few words about you in third person…
Learner, explorer, curiously curious, tech geek, movie fanatic, rockaholic, collector, foodie, optimistic and workaholic…
Why are you an illustrator?
Because I would suck at everything else, period!
Eddie Vedder couldn’t be a chef, Spielberg cant spin a ball, Marty Friedman won’t kill it with a camera as he does with those riffs. I guess we all are born to be a king at something and jack at everything else. I guess this is my path to the throne
Did you attend school for fine art or design or Communications?
Nope… I used to be a science student. In my second term of SYBSC. I realised I am just wasting my time in all these ‘education’. It was time to star my real ‘studies’. Hence i left my college. And took up designing seriously. And started practicing 10-15 hrs a day. Learning the softwares and tools at arena multimedia. With tutorials on my floppy drive. And vague ideas on my mind. I went on to create some really horrendous crap. But It cleared a lot of cloud off my head about the basics of digital art, Photoshop and designing in general, and also made me realize good work from bad and take notice of smallest nuances in an artwork which makes it stand out.
Tell us about a recent campaign you worked on?
Recently i just finished the campaign for ‘Go Goa Gone’. Which was quite fun. Being the first zombie action movie in the country. I was lucky to be part it. Although the original concepts and ideas were much darker and brutal than the toned down version that finally came out. But I am still happy with the response its getting. So its all good.
Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
Many many role models. I never knew their real names.. I grew up in a boarding school. And when all my friends would be interested in watching the sports section in the news paper. I would be interested only in one page. Movie theatre listings.. Not to catch the next movie but just have my glimpse of the small block ads in black and white which would have the movie key arts printed. They were like small movie poster miniatures.. I was also fascinated by the audio cassette covers.. I would just love watching the intricate details on the movie logos.. as I never had access to international art much those days.. These were my ideal studies. Later in life as I was growing up.. I started collecting the cover arts of rock band albums. From the awesome ‘Eddie’ covers of Iron Maiden to more simpler but powerful arts of Metallica. The brutal stuff of Slayer, Megadeth. Then ya of course those comic books of He-Man and Batman. Also the Chacha Choudhary and the Sabu thing. The diagrams in Science and Zoology books. The portraits of historical figures which I would try to replicate with my pencil. All of these made my world. I guess all these fine artists behind all those artworks made me whatever I am today.
Who was the most influential personality on your career in illustrations?
While in school it was my art teacher Mr. Vinchurkar. He is a very very simple person with really great skills. Today when i look back. I realize so much I learnt from him. And then while growing up. I kept learning from everyone and everything. Still doing so.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
My art is very pop culture centric. I still need to find my inner voice i guess. my inspiration can come from a great vocal piece in a song to an awesome dialogue in a movie. To greatly shot movie scene and it would compel me to make a tribute artwork for it. .
But in my professional path. I try to think on a broader strokes. When working on a movie campaign. My intention is always to design a visual which will give the total gist of the movie and the true flavor of its environment. And same time make it enticing for the viewers to go out and watch it in theatres.
Was there any time when you wanted to quit Illustrations?
No not yet. I wish it never comes to that. I may want to quit a situation but never my destination. As there is great saying “A company just owns your job. But you own your career” as far as I am enjoying whatever I am doing. I am totally into it. The moment it gets ugly. I try to wind it up asap and move on to something more exciting.
Tell us something about the Marching Ants work environment. With such a large team, how does that affect individuality and creativity.
The work environment at MA is nothing less than a school class room. Noisy, funny and full of fun with all of us being the back benchers. Crackling and cracking. Even in the gravest times. We have some nonsense to make everyone burst out in laughter. Actually we don’t have a large team. but we have a very concise , concentrated and supremely hardworking team which yields some of the best movie campaigns in the country. People are very varied in their personal interest which always gets something interesting on the table as a team. I am really proud of the people I work with or have worked in the past. All of them have rubbed something on me for sure.
Are many advertising agencies getting illustrations made these days? Do you work more with agencies or publishers?
I primarily specialize in poster art. Which is more of digital composting and manipulation. digital illustrations are my hobbies. And given the working schedules at MA I never get time to collaborate with any other artist or illustrate for anyone else.
Have you considered turning your illustrations into toys?
Toys. Well there are already toys based on my illustrations they are called action figures. Well what I really would want to do one day is have my illustrations made into postcards and get them posted around the world. Maybe someday.
Any other Indian Illustrators who you admire?
Ya many of them. Mukesh Singh, Saumin Patel, Shreya Shetty, Nithin Kumblekar, Vivek Shinde, Abhishek Malsuni, Abhishek Singh.
Do you have any favourite fellow illustrators or resources relating to your fields?
Many many. Apart from all those people mentioned above. The works of the great Drew Struzan, Bob Peak, Oly Moss, Ken Taylor, Sam Spratt, Alice X. Zhang, Martin Ansin. Many awesome works on society6.com, behance.net, deviantart.com, mondoarchive.com.
You have such a wide experience as a top working professional. What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals? Would you advise them to take on Illustration as a career option? Is it paying well enough?
I just have to say. Please don’t let money be the reason to come to designing or illustrations. Let it be your love for the art. Love it. Hone it. Then excel in it. And believe me money will surely follow.
Pick and tell us about one of all your past campaigns, your personal favourite.
Well the very first movie poster that I designed was for the movie NAINA back in 2005. Which is really special to me. Apart from that the website for movie Rang De Bananti, Mumbai Meri Jaan, Mangal Pandey, offical website for A R Rahman created in 2007-08. Print posters for City of Gold, Agent Vinod, Shor In the City, Kahaani, Players, Game, Iqbal, Zinda and of course currently the posters I did for Go Goa Gone.
Tell us something of your personal projects.
Well my personal projects are illustrations and paintings i do as a tribute to my favourite actors, movies, bands, singers etc. It’s very pop. Very poster and very me. Every time I start a piece I try to adapt a new style. With digital pen tablets. Its so so much open fun to experiment. Its always a surprise to realize what all u can achieve. I am currently working on a new vector painting. Which once complete will be released in 2 versions. One as a portrait of the actor and the other as the poster for the movie. Really excited to finish and share it.
Somewhere by end of this year of mid next year I would want to put up an exhibition with best of my illustrations and see how its received. Then later plan up an online store too. Lets see.
What is your dream project?
It would be to design a movie poster for the gods.
Nolan, Spielberg, Tarantino, Fincher, Jackson, Scorsese. Someday. Hopefully.
Mac or PC?
What’s on your iPod?
Led Zeppelin, Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder Solos, , Metallica, Iron Maiden, Dire Straits, Ccr, Pink Floyd, Doors, Oasis, Nirvana, Megadeath, Slayer, A R Rahman, Deep purple, Guns And Roses, Eric Clapton.
And lots of OSTs. From Star wars, The Last of the Mohicans to Django Unchained.